Can the country afford our army reeling under a severe funds crunch without its inherent telling effects on its drive of modernization at a time when Chinese military was competing to reach the level of the US and Pakistan shoring up capabilities of its forces? It is learnt that the army is struggling to even make emergency procurements when it is dealing with a bullish China along with Northern border. Doklam face- off and increasing hostilities from Pakistan on the Western border lent added credence to such ground situation.
A Parliamentary panel is briefed by the army that insufficient allocation in the defence budget was causing frustration and likely to result in upsetting the apple cart of going in for latest in the procurement drive. Vice Chief of army Lt. Gen.Sarath Chandsaid that 68% of the army’s equipment was in the “vintage category” while just 24% was in the current state and 8% only in the state of the art category.This assumes significance to ponder over especially when both our neighbours are upping their military mite for obvious diabolic evil designs against this country. The current funds crunch was also going to impact the serviceability of the existing equipment and may even affect payment of installmentsfor past purchases.
The exasperation of the army over inadequate allocation of funds in the defence budget for the next fiscal figured in a report of the standing committere on Defence which was tabled in LokSabha a few days back. The panel was informed about the army’s expectations having not matched with what had been allocated for 2018-19and that most of what was achieved had in fact received bit of a jerk. Elaborating the point, the panel was informed that allocation of Rs.21338 crore for modernization was insufficient even to cater for committed payment of Rs. 29033 crore for 125 on going schemes , emergency procurements and the like. Likewise, committed liabilities of 2017 which would also get passed on to 2018 would further accentuate the situation. So far as the regional scenario is concerned, two front wars could never be ruled out. In fact our defence preparedness needs to be looked at with this reality rather than a possibility which pitched, therefore, for modernization of our army. This assumes greater importance looking to over assertive attitude of China and the Doklam issue remaining in a state of suspense and least fully resolved.
More and more patrolling and transgressions had been observed by the army. Activities in Tibet had also increased over a period of years both in terms of the number of troops, and the volume of exercises while the army did not have adequate resources to even undertake the construction of strategic roads near the Sino- Indian border which was duly conveyed to the Panel. It was also pointed out as to how daring attacks on army installations in Uri, Pathankot, Nagrota and SunjwaniCantt in Jammu took place which only buttressed the view that the army had to be modernized and provided with the latestavailable equipment.
The army had identified 25 projects under the “Make in India”initiative but reasonably adequate budget was nowhere in sight to support them resulting in many of them getting foreclosed. The Panel could not contest the contentions of the army, not in the least, but endorsed their view point about the army having got not enough in the budget looking to their requirements. The increasing threat perception both external strife and internal dissidence such as Doklam, increased external activitiesin Tibet over a year , rampant cross border firing, terror activities etc; the current budget was not supportive to the inevitable needs of the army. It is a sad commentary as to how over years, army has been given not due attention to keep it at par comparatively with the levels of any of the best fighting forces in the world.Modernization was not a short term process or one time approach. It was to be there on an even basis independent of interruptions without a specific goal post as that was incessantly keeping itself shifted looking to developments the world throughout. How could, otherwise there be a whopping 68% of the equipment of the army in the vintage category while only a derisory 24% in current state and 8% in the state of the art category? Why cannot we have instead of 8 , at least more than 50% in that category looking to our special placement that of defending our borders from two belligerent countries?
The Parliamentary panel opined that the security of the Nation was paramount and the safety of those defending the country could not be left in a state of abandonment. Forces must be capacitated in maintaining a robust and effective response mechanism to counter emerging threats. Likewise, Indian Air Force and the Navy too needed to be modernized.